Ideas that add up #15

Ideas that add up #15

For all its perceived foreignness, the Armory Show was born of the characteristically New York idea that good art came in a variety of eccentric forms, and that people should be able to see it all. That sounds self-evident now, but at the time the art establishment, with its academies and juries, was structured to promote good behaviour…

Today the Armory Show’s descendants, the biennials and megafairs, are extravaganzas of self-promotion, attempts to divine trends or pump them up into markets. The original was nothing like that: it was an exercise in broad-mindedness, for which the organisers were pilloried.

Ariella Budick in the FT, December 29th 2012

America’s first blockbuster art show: the exhibition that brought modernist paintings and sculpture to a new mass audience, one hundred years ago. The collection of impressionist, post-impressionist and cubist art sparked anger and anxiety and generated lots of free publicity. For challenging the status quo and toying with anarchy the artists were accused of giving succour to real, bomb-throwing subversives. Society under threat!

Nowadays tens of thousands of us traipse through big-ticket displays of contemporary art, wandering nonplussed among the installations and video screenings and dollops of dried elephant poo. Still seeking a bit of that Armory-Show buzz, perhaps, and a touch of scandal to natter about later.

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